The deafening silence

If you’re a British reader still reeling from Brexit, I’ve got something that might cheer you up on this otherwise sad day. As it turns out, you’re not the only country that’s taken a swan dive into the abyss; we’ve been on our way down for some time and now we’re accelerating our descent.

Today Russia’s Duma just voted on an “anti-terrorism” legislation package that is one of the most repressive laws since the fall of the Soviet Union. In the end some of the most odious measures were removed, but what got in is bad enough.

In truth there’s nothing really shocking about this. In the past couple years we’ve already had numerous Russians sentenced to jail for things like retweets and “likes” on social media, all under the intentionally vague, always hypocritical charge of “extremism.” As Russia’s crisis deepens with no end in sight, the elite knows that it must squeeze more wealth out of a shrinking supply, all the while suppressing the ordinary working people who face the consequences of the regime’s irresponsibility and blatant criminality. One needn’t look much further than the bill’s originator- nutjob deputy Irina Yarovaya. Like Putin and many of his friends, she has good reason to preempt public dissent.

Hey, speaking of using terrorism as an excuse to pass draconian laws, I happen to know a certain TV network that prides itself on exposing the diabolical machinations of out-of-control governments. They constantly feature guests that insist that information should be free, that governments are manufacturing false pretexts to justify repression. They championed Edward Snowden for exposing government spying on private citizens and even gave a talk show to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. I bet they’ll be all over this! 

Oh…That’s it? Just one news story? Oh. Okay.

Funny how it omits some of the nasty bits of the bill that still made it in, such as the increased punishment for “extremism.” But let’s be fair- this was a news story in the Russian Politics section of the website. If we want to see the Russian government get taken to task for cracking down on its citizens’ civil liberties, we need to go to the Op-Edge section! This will be good…

Uh…Alright. I see an article about how the FBI uses terrorism as an excuse to spy on people’s private lives. That’s a little bit hypocritical, isn’t it? Let’s keep digging.

Oh look, here’s an a hypocritical article bashing “multiculturalism,” suggesting that Britain might start to tolerate bigamy among Muslims. This is hypocritical because Russia in fact allows bigamy, as the infamous case of a middle-aged Chechen policeman legally marrying a 17-year-old girl (possibly against her will) taught us last year. The marriage was publicly defended both by Russia’s children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov and “family values” Duma deputy Elena Mizulina. So if you’re keeping score, Russia allows teenager-old man bigamy whereas according to the article itself, any bigamy is still a criminal offense in the United Kingdom.

I guess I’ll have to keep digging to find an evisceration of Yarovaya and her tyrannical anti-terrorism law.

Uh…Okay. Here’s an article complaining about the rehabilitation of Nazism and antisemitism in Europe. That’s a bit hypocritical given RT’s propensity for featuring and often misrepresenting neo-Nazis and anti-Semites.

Speaking of antisemitism, just a bit further on we get a bizarre Op-Edge by Sam Gerrans, a clear nutcase who once penned an Op-Edge featuring the old “Jewish Bolshevism” trope, one of the cornerstones of Nazi propaganda. Looking at Gerrans body of work, I can’t help but note an odd mixture of severe sexual issues, ironically juxtaposed with anti-Islamic rhetoric which could get him dinged for extremism in Russia. In this particular Op-Edge, Gerrans rants about pedophilia, suggesting that the media is subtly trying to make it seem acceptable. Don’t laugh- he may have a point. Someone should find out what TV shows Putin has been watching:


Mainstream media! What have you done?! 

As I am not a student of psychology working on a doctoral thesis on repressed sexual issues, I decided to move on from Gerrans and continue searching for an Op-Edge that would take the Russian government to task for its lack of transparency and respect for civil rights and privacy.

I’m starting to get a bit desperate though. Hey! There’s an article about Julian Assange! Maybe this champion of transparency will…Oh…Wait…No. It’s just an article defending him.

Okay what else is there?

Let’s see…An Op-Edge by the legendary Robert Bridge! Let’s look at the description…

“With US military bases breeding faster than McDonald’s franchises, and 28-member NATO smashing up against Russia’s border…”

Actually US military bases have been closing and personnel are still being cut- right out of the gate this is literally the opposite of true. Shit. Well maybe there’s something here…

This headline says “Foreign investors are interested in connecting with Russia.” Wait a minute…I thought Putin is a bulwark against globalization and Russia doesn’t need foreign investors. Here’s a story about the dangers France faces from Islamic terrorism, but they still publish articles from Pepe Escobar, who said the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France were nothing but a false flag! Fuck! There must be something here! This is RT! The network that dares us to QUESTION MORE! After everything they said about the PATRIOT Act, Snowden, the NSA, and the FBI, there must be some article condemning Russia’s recent draconian anti-terrorism law! 

I scrolled down for several pages but couldn’t find anything even mentioning the anti-terrorism bill. You know, looking back, I noticed that I couldn’t find anything critical of the Russian government or its foreign policy at all. Virtually everything was about how unfair the world is to Russia, and how incompetent America is. This is kind of weird because in other international news outlets it’s not hard to find articles criticizing the policies and actions of their politicians, challenging their claims, and so on. Sure, some publications tend to lean toward one party or another, but in general all but the absolute rags will at least provide some diversity of opinion. There’s something…different about this channel.

You know, it’s almost like they don’t really believe in all that talk about transparency, civil rights, and privacy! It’s almost as if they flog Snowden not because they believe that governments using terrorism as a reason to spy on millions of innocent people is inherently bad, but rather because Snowden’s revelations indicted the US government.

No, I mustn’t give into such paranoid fantasies. I’m sure that RT’s near silence on this issue is just some horrible oversight, no doubt due to the budget cuts they’ve had to endure in 2015. I’m sure someone will get right on an Op-Edge taking Yarovaya and the whole Duma to task for passing such legislation. In fact, I bet they’ll have this article up so quickly that I can actually hold my breath while I wait for it. I think I’ll do that now.




25 thoughts on “The deafening silence

  1. Kevin Fernando

    On the subject of Brexit, this is a disaster for Europe in terms of the geopolitical power balance. If more countries leave the EU will cease becoming a major financial power in the world, leaving China and the US as the financial giants. World is about to become a lot smaller.

  2. Mr. Hack

    Your personal criticism of those that pretend to be interested in ‘human rights’ and ‘civil liberties’ and who often glance over Russia’s blatant abrogation of these rights finds full expression in Steven Velychenko’s insightful piece ‘Leftists, Liberals, and Ukraine: A Tale of Double Standards’ ran in ‘Krytyka’ about a year ago. After reading it, I wonder if you feel that you’ve found a kindred spirit?

  3. Mr. Hack

    Looks like somebody is calling you a ‘dishonest writer’ over at Vladimir Kara-Murza’s blog.
    Something about your rendition of the ‘Irish referendum’? I don’t know what the problem is, but thought that you might find it amusing…

      1. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Looks like he totally missed the point. I’m not necessarily calling that referendum democratic, but I’m guessing plenty of Remainers thought that to be the case. I also believe I’ve mentioned that specific incident in the past as being one of the problems with EU democracy, i.e. their tendency to order votes to be held until people vote “the right way.”

        In other news, some rambling blogger is referring to me as a “self-proclaimed globalist progressive.” Apparently he doesn’t know the definition of “self-proclaimed” because obviously I’ve never labeled myself thus.

        Also according to the same nut I’m a “hipster” too. I guess that word has finally lost all meaning now.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Good lord those people are absolutely mental. I don’t even know why I dove into that.

      Did you see how one tacitly admitted that his admiration for Putin is because he allegedly makes certain people “hysterical?”

      That’s the level of political intelligence we’re dealing with here. “I like this leader I know nothing about because he makes people I don’t like angry.”

      1. Mr. Hack

        The dufus that you engaged in a long back & forth with is named Leos Tomicek. He’s lived in London now for over 10 years and has never lived in Russia and has never even been to Ukraine. His father, also named Leos Tomicek, works for nuclear energy giant Rosotom and seems to have a visible, high paying position there. I suspect that Jr. is getting things ready for Daddy’s eventual retirement, to London…

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        So in other words…He has every opportunity to live in Russia, but doesn’t want to. Weird. Putin’s doing such a great job but they don’t even want to experience it as privileged expats!

  4. Mr. Hack

    Leos Tomicek is a textbook example of a hypocrite: ‘It’s a swell place, full of beauty and grace and freedoms and economic opportunities – it’s just not for me…But it’s still a wonderful place!’ 🙂

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Actually they are, or at least someone is. This is from the news department, which historically has been more objective. As the post says, the main problem is in the Op-Edge.

      I just checked again and there are no articles criticizing or even mentioning the new law. There are, of course, plenty of articles regurgitating pro-government talking points.

      But hey- all media are like that, right?

      1. ramendik

        Most media do reflect a particular viewpoint and I do not know any government-owned media that would not follow, broadly, that government’s line. For non-government media there is still a party line, you won’t get a pro-lire opinion piece in the Huffington Post or a Black Lives Matter pitch on Fox News. That’s why we gotta have multiple media (and bloggers keeping watch over it, so, despite disagreement on pretty much every foreign policy issue, fair play to you).

      2. ramendik

        I’ve taken a look at Op-Edge now. (Not very proficient at RT generally, I am from Russia originally, so I just read Russian language sources when I want the Russian opinions. (And also UNIAN’s Russian-language pages – sometimes, when one reads through the spin, more can be gleaned from UNIAN on the Kiev government’s human rights violations than from Russian or Western sources).

        Op-Edge seems to be an outlet for non-Russian authors writing about non-Russian affairs. Including issues like attitudes to Russia abroad, but the key word is still “abroad”.

        This is pretty typical. Just how much opinion critical of the government of Qatar can be found on Al Jazeera Opinion? I’ve taken a look at but found none.

        (Al Jazeera is probably a closer analogy than the BBC. The BBC is government-owned but works for an internal as well as external audience).

      3. Jim Kovpak Post author

        “Op-Edge seems to be an outlet for non-Russian authors writing about non-Russian affairs. Including issues like attitudes to Russia abroad, but the key word is still “abroad”.”

        Nope, sorry- you tried to compare this to Western media. If I look at the editorial page of any Western outlet, including outlets like the BBC, you will inevitably find articles critical of the government’s claims. In fact, while the American corporate media is way too soft on politicians, on the BBC they seem to have this attitude that it’s the journalist’s job to give the guest a hard time, which often has amusing results.

        When we look on RT, we do not see any critique of Putin or his system/major policy goals. With Western outlets, there will inevitably be “fact-checks” after major speeches like the State of the Union.

        Also I’m really glad you brought up Al Jazeera because here’s Al Jazeera host Medhi Hasan interviewing the Qatari foreign minister and taking him to task for supporting Islamist terrorist groups in Syria and for claiming to support democracy in Syria but not in Qatar. Now go look up RT’s interviews with Lavrov and see if you find something like that.

      4. ramendik

        I’ve looked at what I could find. It does seem they would not do that with Lavrov, but I’d chalk this up to the “big boss can get you fired” thing (well known in Russia, sadly) rather than general editorial policy, so I went beyond interviews to look for criticism of the Russian government. I still don’t think Op-Edge is the place so I looked for videos instead.

        It seems that on this thing RT is getting worse with time. In 2012 they devoted a few minutes to covering criticism of “Dima Yakovlev’s Law” and of the Pussy Riot prosecution, link to the latter: . However “that was then”, and Prime Time Russia, the “culprit”, has since been closed. And when viewing a more recent Crosstalk episode, talking about the Russian economy which was in a pretty bad shape at the time, I can’t help noticing that the host is trying to “soften” the impact of the experts, who are critical of the Kremlin’s policy that led to it.

        Al Jazeera, on the other hand, apparently got better with time. My idea that they don’t touch Quatar’s govt was based on an, I think, 2014 article. The video is dated October 2015.

        RT needs to get its act together, yeah. They started, as I still think, by learning from the West. But that’s the West where blatant lies about Yugoslavia and criticism of Bill Clinton over the Lewinsky affair could be seen on the same channel.

      5. Jim Kovpak Post author

        You’re absolutely right that RT got worse over time. 2014 was the major shark-jumping moment. A similar thing happened in other Russian media outlets. Ironically this was around the time they killed the best Russian English-language media they had- RIA Novosti English service and The Moscow News. RIA Novosti was genuinely objective and the Moscow News was practically an opposition paper that still retained a good balance.

        As for economic news, Russian media never really seems to shy away from reporting it. The main line you don’t cross is attributing that economic downturn to the government.

        “They started, as I still think, by learning from the West. But that’s the West where blatant lies about Yugoslavia and criticism of Bill Clinton over the Lewinsky affair could be seen on the same channel.”

        I’m sorry but this claim doesn’t really hold up. If they learned from the West, they were learning from one channel, the absolute worst- Fox News. For one thing, there is no “monolithic” Western media. Second, one reason there was so much criticism of that affair was because the US has competitive politics, and the other party that had taken control of congress in 1994 was pushing the story.

        Of course an RT apologist could try to use that argument, claiming that criticism in the US or UK media is due to the political competition, but then they’re tacitly admitting that this doesn’t exist in Russia, and they’ll have to explain why.

      6. ramendik

        I’d say they saw much of CNN during the late 90s; Fox and RT had a common teacher. But I don’t disagree on most other points.

        As for RT, I lost the free-satellite thingie in 2014, never really watched them since then except when pointed to something particular – and they seem worse now. I’m not as much an “RT apologist” (hard to be an apologist without watching it) as a “critic of Western media”, for reasons like Yugoslavia/Libya/Syria not just Ukraine.

        In fact I can at least understand them on Ukraine because the Kiev side very clearly bills itself as pro-European so they have an ally to support. The reason for other cases of bias is far less clear.

        For example, in the recent fighting in Aleppo, they constantly parroted the rebel line, where only destruction by government fire in rebel-held areas was highlighted – and these ones ARE Islamists, too. There was as much if not more rebel-originated destruction in government-held areas but that was just not there, nothing, silence, at least on BBC and RTE where I looked (I’m in Ireland so these are the natural ones). Wonder if any American mainstream-ish media noticed that side… a quick google revealed exactly one link of that nature (and it does not dwell on the matter, while Western MSM reports of bombardments of rebel-help Aleppo are often very emotional… I know Reuters has to keep to a more businesslike tone – I just womnder why Reuters was the only link I found).

      7. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Again, the problem is that there is no monolithic Western media. Of course what media does exist still suffers from things like the profit motive and reliance on official sources, but that’s preferable to a media consolidated into the hands of an unaccountable government that promotes one party line.

        If you watch the headline news sure, you’re not going to get very in-depth coverage. But if you actually bother to use Google, you’ll find all kinds of stories about, for example, far rightists involved in Maidan or Islamists and US policy failure in Syria. These stories will also often be far more in-depth. For example, Buzzfeed ran a long piece about how the Pentagon’s plan to arm Syrian rebels failed miserably (the CIA’s program, which was separate, was actually very successful by contrast).

        Ironically the Russian media, including RT, relies on Western media to get these talking points about big bad America. They never actually break these stories or investigate them. And ever time they find one they’re practically waving it around saying: “LOOK! It’s a Western source! You have to believe it!”

        I find that funny because first, they’re always talking about how you can’t trust the “Western MSM,” and two- they’re citing the Western MSM primarily because they know this gives them more credibility.

      8. ramendik

        Well, thankfully, if you use Google in Russian you’ll find a diverse picture too. Including Russian opposition media like Ekho Moskvy and, yes, Ukrainian media, like UNIAN, which as far as I know is not blocked in Russia (please correct me if it is). It’s not really fair to compare Russian TV to American Google-space.

        The Internet has NOT taken over. Many people still watch TV in the West. I live in “the West”, the Midwest of Ireland to be exact, and I see people watching TV. That TV always has BBC and RTE; if they have Sky, it also has Sky News, Euronews, CNN, and Fox, but I suspect these are not watched much (except for Sky News, which is pretty popular).

        I’m not sure what definition RT use for “MSM”. I use “TV channels that people in English-speaking countries are likely to turn on on a daily basis”. This often produces a monolithic picture, except when the Left-Right (CNN-Fox) split kicks in.

        If all you want to say is that blocking Internet sites in Russia sucks, then we are in full agreement, it does. Also SOPA, which was to introduce a very similar tool in America, was overcome by civil society – or perhaps civil society and ISP money, but this scenario is sadly unrealistic in Russia despite presence of ISP money there too.

      9. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Ah yes, Ekho Moskvy- whose head was recently questioned by the FSB over claims that an essay they posted was “extremist.” This was the same week that Dozhd TV was attacked by the leader of NOD because they failed to put the mandatory “banned in Russian Federation” disclaimer after ISIS. I’m sure at least a hundred people joined ISIS because of that oversight.

        Also when I talk about using the internet to find dissenting sources, I’m not talking about blogs. Mainstream publications publish this stuff on their websites. As for TV audiences, they are much lower in the West than in Russia. TV news is seriously struggling.

        As for RT’s definition of MSM, it’s pretty simple and can be determined by a quick test.

        “Did they publish something that criticizes the Putin regime or contradicts our official position?”

        If yes- it’s MSM. This is why Buzzfeed and Vice are considered “MSM” according to RT’s hilarious “Guide to the MSM.” My favorite part of that site is how they list the “MSM” for US, UK, Germany, etc., yet…no Russia. That’s right. Russia has no MSM. Curious. Also we’re always supposed to be suspicious of other outlet or organizations’ funding, but we should totally ignore the fact that RT is entirely funded by the Russian government and run by friends of Putin. Sounds legit!

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